MUMBAI (AFP) — Anguish turned to anger in Mumbai Wednesday, a week after the deadly militant attacks, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against India's political leaders and police.
At least 20,000 people turned out to remember the 188 people who died and the more than 300 others injured during the 60-hour orgy of violence that saw two luxury hotels and a number of other sites targeted.
But the protesters directed much of their ire towards the government and police, accusing them of failing to protect the public and of ignoring reported intelligence warnings that an attack was imminent.
"All these people are taxpayers," said architect Tasneem Jamnagarwala, 32.
"But everyday when I walk out of my house I don't know if I will return home safe. There's nothing that the government gives us back."
The vast crowd included besuited accountants, Muslim housewives in headscarves and long robes, students in tank-tops and shopkeepers. Many said they had never taken part in a public demonstration before.
Several protesters said corruption -- long viewed here with resigned apathy -- allowed repeated attacks to take place, accusing police and politicians of being more interested in collecting bribes than doing their jobs.
Repeated chants of "We want justice" and "Enough is enough" were heard and there was real anger directed at India's arch rival and neighbour Pakistan, amid claims that militants based over the border were to blame.
"India has borne the brunt of terrorism many times. It's time we should put an end to this," said Maria Merchant, 30, who was accompanying Jamnagarwala.
"Action should be taken against the (militant) camps. We know where they train and where they come from."
The protest, the largest in recent years and not backed by any particular group, was largely organised by text message, as India's "Maximum City" slowly gets back to normal.
Political heads have already rolled in India in the wake of the attacks.
Home minister Shivraj Patil stepped down, saying he took "moral responsibility" for what happened. There have been a number of attacks claimed by Islamist extremists on his watch.
Indian television reported Wednesday that Maharashtra state chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh's resignation had been accepted, although there was no immediate confirmation.
The strength of public grievance in India has been seen in the newspapers' letters pages and a C Fore/Hindustan Times survey published Monday.
Some 87 percent of people surveyed thought India was "soft on terrorism", with similar numbers agreeing the country needed tougher politicians and anti-terrorism laws.
A majority, 86 percent, thought the Mumbai attacks could have been prevented.
India accuses the banned Islamist movement Laskhar-e-Taiba of training and equipping the 10 militants who stormed India's financial capital by boat.
US officials have also pointed at the group, which was blamed for the 2006 Mumbai train blasts that killed nearly 200 and the 2001 Indian parliament attack that brought nuclear-armed India and Pakistan to the brink of war.
Pakistan has strongly denied the allegations, demanding concrete evidence from India to back up the claims.
As foreign intelligence agencies, including the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), joined their Indian counterparts in the probe, questions have been asked about how much India knew about the attacks and when.
US media reports said Washington had warned India in October that hotels and businesses in Mumbai might be targeted by attackers coming from the sea.
City police chief Hassan Gafoor admitted Tuesday that they had received warnings after the deadly truck bomb blast at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad on September 20, including that the Taj Mahal hotel could be a target.
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